Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Birketts LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Birketts LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Reputation in East Anglia’, ‘wide range of commercial practice’, ‘good remuneration and LPC fees covered’, ‘the teams I worked for on my vac scheme were friendly and helpful’, ‘it’s a large regional firm which is growing rapidly and has a great reputation nationally’, ‘quality of work combined with location’, ‘it has a good approach to work/life balance’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Exceptional quality of work and clients’, ‘broad range of clients and practice areas’, ‘the people are incredibly knowledgeable in their fields and do some very important work but always have time to help others grow’, ‘everyone is so friendly and supportive, not only in your work capacity but in your life generally’, ‘the people’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Not much capacity for one-to-one training’, ‘it can be a bit cliquey’, ‘the inability to be more flexible and allow trainees to work from home with a laptop’, the four offices are in different counties, making it hard to meet other people’, ‘no opportunities to undertake client secondments during your training’

Best moment? ‘Meeting with counsel’, ‘attending a Technology and Construction Court hearing’, ‘independence to run transactions and matters and build direct client relationships’, ‘submitting pleadings to the tribunal with very few amendments from my supervisor’, ‘the first time I completed a lease on my own’, ‘a client praising me for work I had done’, ‘working on large property deals’

Worst moment? ‘Crosschecking numerous contracts’, ‘having to re-do a piece of work for a partner three times because I kept misunderstanding it’, ‘periods when there hasn’t been much work’, ‘hearing bundles getting lost in the DX on their way to counsel’, ‘having an unsupportive supervisor who didn’t give me much work’, ‘preparing bundles and photocopying’

The Lex 100 verdict on Birketts LLP

The firm: Birketts has four offices across the east of England in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Norwich. The full-service firm advises businesses, institutions and individuals in the UK and internationally, and has enjoyed substantial growth in terms of size, geographic spread and turnover in recent years.

The deals: Representing Westbrook Partners in its acquisition of a portfolio of 30 UK industrial estates; advising Gressingham on its purchase of J F Edwards (Smithfield) Ltd; representing the shareholders of Servest on the merger of the UK business with the Atalian Group; representing the applicant for Mistley Village Green in the Court of Appeal in seeking and obtaining village green status for the working quay of Mistley in Essex; securing a court order to sell the vessel Malaviya Twenty, paving the way for crew members on board to be paid and return to India following 17 months at the port of Great Yarmouth where it was abandoned following its owners going into administration.

The clients: Atalian Servest Ltd; Cambridge City Council; Countryside Properties (UK) Ltd; Gas Transportation Company Ltd; Just Eat; Kettle Foods Ltd.; Lloyds Bank plc; McGee Civil Engineering Ltd; Muntons plc; Scientific Digital Imaging plc.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Agriculture and estates; Banking and finance; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial property; Construction; Corporate and commercial; Crime; Debt recovery; Environment; Family; Health; Immigration; IT and telecoms; Licensing; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Planning; Professional negligence; Property litigation; Transport and shipping.

The verdict

Birketts ‘focuses on growing trainees into well-rounded lawyers’ whilst offering ‘exposure to large clients and a good level of responsibility’. The ‘inclusive, friendly workplace’ was often mentioned, in particular the ‘welcoming and friendly teams’. Many encountered ‘people I could imagine working with’ during the vacation scheme, which cemented their decision to join. There are ‘real opportunities to progress’ at the East Anglian firm, with trainees lauding the fact that Birketts is ‘supportive of your aspirations’ and that ‘people care about your career progression’. The result is that recruits feel ‘free to ask questions’, with which ‘most people are very happy to help’. Trainees felt frustrated with the ‘inconsistency between supervisors and departments’, resulting in ‘different expectations across the firm’. There is also room for improvement in the seat allocation process. The high levels of responsibility afforded to recruits is evident in best moments such as ‘being able to take my own client meetings’, ‘completing a corporate transaction on my own’ and ‘running a matter from start to finish’. Many trainees also cited attending court hearings as highlights. Conversely, such autonomy occasionally leads to ‘making a mistake with a trial bundle’ or ‘having loads of work to do but not enough time to complete it’. ‘Dating 200 documents in a morning’ and ‘checking numerous contracts’ were also less than enthralling tasks. At least the atmosphere at the firm is ‘fun and enjoyable’ and there is a ‘real sense that you are all striving to achieve one goal’. If you think you’d feel at home in a firm which has a ‘fantastic and friendly atmosphere combined with a healthy dose of ambition’, research Birketts.

A day in the life of… Francesca Reason, first-year trainee, Birketts LLP

Francesca Reason, Birketts LLP

Departments to date: Construction and regulatory and corporate defence

University: University of Law

Degree: Law, first class honours

8.30am: I arrive at the office and log on, catch up with some colleagues and we decide who will be making the daily trip downstairs to our café for the team coffee run.

8.45am: I review my to-do list from the previous day to carry over any non-urgent items. I then write up my to-do list and prioritise tasks. For those that are time-sensitive I will usually block those out in my calendar (which the rest of the team has access to) as this helps to manage expectations as to my capacity.

9.15am: A colleague has asked me to assist with an adjudication and has some research for me to do so we discuss the facts of the case and I start researching a jurisdictional point.

11.00am: 11 minutes at 11. On Mondays, we have a brief meeting to discuss things like workload and capacity, business development and any major deadlines that we’re working to. The aim is to keep the meeting short and sweet, but invariably, an 11-minute limit is always too ambitious, so this usually lasts until 11.45am.

11.45am: A conference call is scheduled with a partner and a client to discuss an upcoming mediation so we go into a meeting room for this. My role is to listen and take a detailed note of the discussion.

12.30pm: The partner discusses follow-up actions from the meeting and I make sure that these, along with an attendance note from the conference call, are communicated to anyone else working on the case.

1.00pm: Depending on my day, I might not take a lunch break but if the workload isn’t too heavy I’ll take a quick stroll to grab a salad.

1.30pm: The team is working on a huge case which is due to go to trial in a couple of months. As the claimants, we have the job of producing the trial bundles for court so at 1.30pm, the team involved finally sit down to come up with a strategy for how to approach the bundles. We try to decide upon things like deadlines for getting the bundles to the court and to counsel, naming conventions and cross-referencing and the mundane things like where we will store the bundles before they are sent to counsel and to the other side.

2.30pm: A QC that we have instructed has sent through a couple of supplemental expert reports from the other side. He would like me to read through them and highlight any inconsistencies. They are each approximately 100 pages long so this will take me a day and a half or so.

4.00pm: I have to put the expert reports aside to research a point for a partner on the Civil Procedure Rules surrounding costs orders.

4.45pm: A diary reminder prompts me to do a bit of social media business development. I share an article that a colleague has written for ‘Cornerstone’, our specialist construction newsletter on LinkedIn, and I take a minute to like, share or comment on things that are going on in the industry.

5.00pm: I have an internal meeting with two partners from the construction team and two from our commercial property team to discuss a conference that’s coming up which I’m helping to plan. We discuss which clients we might like to host for corporate hospitality dinners and make a plan of action as to who is best placed to send the invitations.

5.30pm: I go back to my expert report task. Not every day is a ‘late’ day but for the upcoming trial we have some strict deadlines to adhere to so I do this until about 6.30pm before checking my emails again.

7.00pm: I check with a partner that there isn’t anything urgent that they need help with before logging off.

About the firm

Senior partner: James Austin

Other offices: Cambridge, Norwich, Chelmsford

Who we are: A top 100 UK law firm in East Anglia with 680+ employees, highly ranked in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners and recently awarded Law Firm of the Year: The Independents – Regional at the Lawyer Awards 2019.

What we do: A full-service law firm, providing legal advice across a wide range of industry sectors. We also house niche areas of law such as charities and social enterprise, shipping, regulatory and corporate defence and agriculture.

What we’re looking for: Applications are welcome from both law and non-law students. Applicants should have a minimum of a 2(1) degree and good A Level results (minimum B,B,B or equivalent), strong interpersonal skills and a common-sense approach.

What you’ll do: A trainee will complete four seats, with a high degree of input and client contact from day one.

Perks: 25 days’ holiday plus bank holidays, 5% matched pension contribution, health insurance, season ticket loan, cycle to work scheme, gym membership discount, paid CSR day, social events throughout the year.

Sponsorship: We provide LPC sponsorship up to £12,500 if students have not already started or completed the course from the time of offer.